Patients seeking the Provenge prostate cancer vaccine may wait a year or more because Dendreon can only produce enough to meet about 2 percent of demand. The shortage is expected to last until at least mid-2011 while Dendreon works on getting three plants up and running to capacity,Bloomberg News writes. Meanwhile, hospitals are creating waiting lists as they determine who should be eligible.
“Until the capacity issues can be addressed, this will not be an effective agent,” Chris Logothetis, head of prostate cancer research at MD Anderson in Houston, tells the news service. "The waiting list - even as we are telling patients we’re not starting a waiting list because we are inundated - is more than 50 patients. This is going to be a problem.”
About 200,000 new prostate cancer patients are identified each year, Bloomberg writes, and as many as 20 percent of patients may qualify for Provenge, Logothetis says. But it takes about a month to prepare each custom-made course of Provenge, Dendreon coo Hans Bishop tells Bloomberg. Dendreon plans to make enough to accommodate 2,000 patients in the first year, falling short of the 100,000 patients with advanced tumors who may be eligible to be vaccinated.
“It’s an unfortunate reality that there is not enough manufacturing capacity, but it’s a difficult process,” T. Rowe Price portfolio manager Kris Jenner tells Bloomberg. “The company has to be responsible to the shareholders that made this a reality; they also have to be responsible to the patients who are in line. Hopefully after we exit 2011, the availability will become much better.”
The vaccine maker, by the way, has yet to strike a foreign distribution deal with a larger company. However, such a move would lessen Dendreon's value, assuming management might want to sell the company, which Wall Street views as an eventual goldmine. After all, a potential buyer would be happier buying global rights instead of having to share - unless the buyer is the same company that strikes a distribution deal. By taking a cautious approach to manufacturing, meanwhile, Dendreon execs also reduce the odds of a mishap that could cast a pall over long-term value.